Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and all of its characters do not and never will belong to me.
- chapter 10 -
Hughes arrived at Roy's office forty-five minutes after their call, so by the time he had stepped inside, Roy's nerves were almost dead from exhaustion by being alert the whole day. He amused himself with his friend's anxiousness, and the tendency of his pink finger to twitch with each tentative step he took. "So, Colonel." He grinned cheekily. "What do you want to know?"
Roy sighed heavily. "Be serious, Hughes."
"Oh?" Hughes was liking every minute of this. "What is it about Edward Elric that it so important that makes Roy Mustang tell his very best friend to be serious?" By the now furious twitching of Roy's pinky, Hughes knew that he was seriously getting under his skin. With a casual smile, he plopped down a chair, and crossed his arms. "Okay, I'm serious."
Roy muttered a gratuitous note. "Now…" He blinked, racking his head up for a question. He realized that he actually had a lot of questions that he didn't know where to start. "How did the Fullmetal Alchemist start?"
Hughes opened his mouth to reply.
Simultaneously, the door burst open.
Both of Hughes' and Roy's blood turned cold.
Frank Archer stood in the doorway, raising an eyebrow at them and looking all high and mighty. His sharp eyes traveled around the room, until he spotted Hughes sitting in front of Roy's desk, and his thin mouth formed a quirky smile. "Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes. I thought you're shift is over?"
Hughes smiled thickly, yet leaned back casually. "An issue came up. You know about that Ishbal uprising downtown?"
"Ah. I see." Frank nodded, and turned to Roy. "Yes, I do believe that the National Hero is the wisest choice when asking for help about Ishbalians." He was trying his best not to sneer, Roy was sure of it.
The Flame Alchemist swallowed his smart remarks and gave out his ever-famous smirk. "Well, Lieutenant Colonel Archer. What brings you here at this time of night?"
Frank bowed his head slightly. "Yes. Well, there are some files missing in the library." He paused. "Those files are very confidential, so we ask of you to keep our search a secret. But I'm here to ask if you know anything about them?" His eyes glinted. "Files about the Fullmetal Alchemist?"
Roy's back went stiff.
Hughes sensed it almost immediately. "I'm sorry. We don't know anything about it." He said, smiling apologetically. "Sorry we couldn't be of much help, Lieutenant Colonel."
Frank nodded. "Colonel Mustang?"
Roy shook his head slowly. "No. I don't know either."
Again, Frank Archer nodded. With another bow of his head, he offered the two men a sharp smile, before stepping out and closing the door behind him.
Hughes' would have laughed when Roy gave a heavy breath of relief, if only the situation wasn't so serious. He sighed, looking at his friend playfully, "You gotta be more careful, Roy."
Roy moaned morosely. "Yes, I know." He rubbed his temples. "Are you sure that these walls and door is sound proof?"
"Not really." Hughes smiled sympathetically. "But they're thick enough not to let voices through, unless you're yelling, of course." He glanced at the other. "I don't usually bring work home." He smiled. "But are you up for a cup of tea?"
"Thank you." Roy smiled in gratitude as Hughes handed him a cup of hot, steaming coffee. He blew the smoking liquid absentmindedly before taking a small sip, ignoring the small sting on the tip of his tongue.
Hughes sat on the chair across him. "What are your thoughts on Lieutenant Colonel Archer?"
Hughes laughed. "We know that. But you'd be surprised just how many female officers we have that giggle over him." Roy hummed thoughtfully. He chuckled. "Your fan base's still bigger, if that's what you're worried about." That earned him a pointed look that he ignored.
Roy leaned back on the couch. "What about your thoughts?"
"I'm suspicious." Hughes shrugged, as if it were nothing. "You do know that Frank Archer also experienced the middle stages of the war. I had missions where I was teamed up with him." Roy nodded to indicate he was listening. "Even though we both know that he knows the Fullmetal Alchemist…" Hughes took a sip of his coffee. "Doesn't it strike you weird how a lieutenant colonel would be the one informed of the missing files?"
Roy raised an eyebrow. "You know his connections to the Fuhrer."
"True." Hughes shrugged yet again. "But we both know that the Fuhrer would have picked someone other than him to handle files of the Fullmetal. If not someone with a higher rank, at least someone more… responsible, perhaps? No offense to Lieutenant Colonel Archer, of course. Like… Major Armstrong, for example."
Roy nodded slowly. "If the Fuhrer needed to pick a Lieutenant Colonel… he would have picked you." He looked at the picture on the wall adjacent of him, smiling slightly as he gazed at how Elysia sat happily on her father's shoulders. He let his eyes then travel to the person in front of him. "An officer known for his investigation skills."
Hughes chuckled. "Thank you for the compliment."
"So…" Roy took another sip of his coffee, and as he leaned further back onto the couch, he gave his friend a playful smirk. "Are you up for an investigation then, Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes?"
Hughes smirked back. "With something this juicy, how can I refuse?"
"Now, let's get back in track." Hughes smiled at Roy's blink. "How the Fullmetal Alchemist started? It's a long story, though."
Roy put down his now empty cup on the coffee table, before letting himself get comfortable. "I have all the time in the world."
The other man grinned. "I thought so." He followed suit, and also put his cup down. "I was about twenty when he arrived in front of the military building in Central looking all famished. It was obvious they were both exhausted, but the older brother stood firm and demanded that he become a State Alchemist." Hughes chuckled, "I suppose demanded is not the right word, but more or less so. Quite arrogant, I know, and very, very stubborn. It was that same attitude that led him to his title, though."
"How did someone of his age get in the military in the first place?" Roy raised an eyebrow.
"Apparently, their late father was known throughout the military as a man of skill and talent. The boys obviously inherited it, because when the Fuhrer gave them the permission to be tested, they passed with flying colors." Hughes remarked. "Trust me. I was there."
He continued. "He started out with small missions that eventually became larger cases. His brother would always be with him, although he wasn't part of the military. Edward Elric is the officer that defied all the rules." He chuckled. "But with his skill and the love of the people for him, we couldn't afford to lose him. Besides, even if he did defy the rules, I don't know the hell why, everything always turned out right in the end."
"The bottom line is that he did his missions superbly, and his actions caused him the love of the people and fellow officers." Hughes shrugged. "That's all there is to it."
Roy nodded slowly, letting the information sink in. "How did the Fullmetal Alchemist end then?"
"We're at the end so soon?" Hughes grinned, but nonetheless answered. "The Ishbalians attacked while the Elric brothers were on patrol in the west wing of Central HQ. They had the element of surprise and number. Fortunately, we managed to subdue the Ishbalians. Unfortunately, however, the Elric brothers were the only ones in the wing during that night, and therefore were the only ones who suffered."
Hughes paused dramatically. "Alphonse Elric died, and Edward Elric lost his sight."
Roy looked at him.
Hughes continued. "After that, the Fullmetal Alchemist was removed from the military to recuperate. He never came back, and was pretty much never heard from again." He smiled slightly. "A year later, word came about a skilled blind sculptor going by the name of Edward Elric."
"What about family?" Roy asked. "So far, I've only heard of a younger brother and a father who's passed away. Is that it?"
Hughes shrugged. "Al's the only sibling, as far as I know. The father's been dead for years. The mother as well passed away." He paused. "The Elric family… it's a sad one."
Roy nodded silently in agreement. Hughes continued. "All I know is that after their mother's death, that's when they started to journey all the way from Risembool, until they landed in Central HQ."
"Do you know why they wanted to come to HQ?" Roy raised an eyebrow.
The other shook his head. "Apparently not." He smiled. "I never thought to ask him then… I thought that we had all the time in the world to talk about irrelevant things."
Roy chuckled. "You mean that you were too obsessed showing off pictures of Elysia to even think about asking?"
Hughes grinned. "Bingo." His eyes practically lit up. "Speaking of Elysia, I snapped a picture of her running after a cat! She was so cute!"
"Ed, you really should be taking more care of yourself." Winry put her hands on her waist, looking at Ed with a pointed look. "I'm not here everytime to scold you, you know. And most importantly, you ignored my lunch that I prepared especially for you! Is this some kind of message? Don't you love me anymore, Edo?"
Ed twitched. "WINRY!"
Winry grinned. "Now, tell me what's bothering your sweet, little mind."
"Nothing." Ed glared in front of him, as he couldn't follow Winry's voice since she kept on pacing so much. "I just didn't notice that you came in so I didn't know that there was lunch. That's it."
"Ed! That's the point! What if it wasn't me that came in? You'd be dead by now with all your savings stuffed and hidden in the insides of the car door of some stranger! There's a reason why doors come with locks."
"The last time I locked, you cried on me saying that I don't want you anymore."
"Ah, that's right." Winry coughed. "But either way! Tell me what's wrong, Edo. You forgot to eat your breakfast, then your lunch. Also, when I slept, I saw you working in the basement. When I woke up, you were still there! You can't have been working on that Colonel's statue, huh? You miss him, don't you?"
Ed sighed exasperatedly. "Winry! I'm waiting for him to come so that we can finish, that's all! And since every scrap of my work of him pretty much went down the drain when I tripped and ruined everything, I'm simply doing based on what I can remember to make things go faster."
"But… Ed." Winry looked at him sadly, looking at those eyes that stared back at her, but have never really seen her. She wondered how such a person can look fixedly at one spot and yet see nothing at all. "I saw it. Through the basement window. Before I came to deliver your lunch."
Ed glared, but muttered slowly. "Saw what?"
"I saw you… Doing the statue." Winry smiled sympathetically, moving forward to throw her arms around the other, to hug him close to her tightly. "The statue of your little brother."
And Ed resigned with a heavy sigh, as he closed his eyes and hugged Winry back. "I miss Al."
"What… made you remember Al?" Winry asked slowly, not sure if she was stepping on a touchy subject, but Ed just shrugged and closed his eyes.
"I received a visit last night."
Winry perked up. "Who?" As far as she knew, she was the only one who went in and out of Ed's house, and she made sure to keep track of all the customers that arrived and left. Come to think of it, she slept late last night working on some project that her grandmother had dumped on her. Since her workshop had a window that clearly showed the front door to Ed's house, she was sure she would have at least noticed someone going in from the corner of her eye.
"Last night…" Ed muttered, shaking his head slightly as he laughed darkly. "My older brother and I had a chat."
And Winry's eyes widened as she gasped and stepped back, only for her feet to twist together. She fell on the carpet with a soft thud, but she could care less about the pain that throbbed steadily from her backside. All that resounded in her head was one name and one name only.
Shaking, she muttered. "Envy…"
Ed's head shot up, and he stared unseeingly in front of him as he spoke, "Do you know… Envy?"
KK: this is way too overdue, I know. Please forgive me. XD;; There are several reasons for that other than laziness! Okay, it was mostly laziness, but dad needed the laptop for his business trip to Taiwan so I couldn't write anything until he came back. When he came back however, writer's block hit. I've already written half of this chapter, and it remained that way for a few more days, until I finally found how to end this chapter to write it today. :D;; And besides, Christmas came.
Speaking of which, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! Hope everyone got a gift from Santa this year. X3